Archive for April, 2012

Image
By Sonala Olumhense
Just over one year ago, I endorsed General Muhammadu Buhari for President of Nigeria.  I argued that in view of the monumental corruption mountain before Nigeria, he was the best candidate on the 2011 presidential slate.

The following month, Nigerians stepped into the examination hall.  One Attahiru Jega, given the job of heading the electoral commission, designed the hall in the form of a ballot box.alt

Now, some of us cannot prove we have ever visited a classroom, let alone that we have ever taken an academic examination of any kind.  Many people presumptuously consider an honorary academic title to be no different from a chieftaincy title, so we take it when they give it to us—or buy one when they do not—and place it in front of our names.  It is an ego crisis.

An examination hall tests, first, your nerves.  Then it tests what you really know.  What it tests most of all is the relevance of what you know to what is asked of you.  The best student is not necessarily the most informed one, but he or she who can best synchronize what is known with what is asked.

One year ago, in that examination hall, the actual question before Nigeria was: Who among the men on the electoral slate for the presidency is “Moses”?

Moses was the Biblical prophet who, having first laughed when the Lord told him he would lead the Israelites out of Egypt, led them into being trapped on the banks of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army advancing menacingly upon them.  With nowhere to go, and the lamentation and crying of the people ringing in his ears, Moses turned to the Lord, who was surprised Moses did not know the power of the staff in his hand.

Moses then performed one of the most historic of feats: he lifted his right hand, the staff in it, over the Red Sea.  That action parted the waters, creating a wall of water to the right and to the left until every Israelite had walked through the river bed and crossed the sea.  The sea was conquered; the Israelis were on solid ground again and could continue their journey to the Promised Land.

The Egyptians, no longer particularly surprised at that time by the feats the Mighty God of the Israelis could perform, went in after the unarmed targets on the other bank.

Moses lowered his right hand, and as the Israelis watched from one bank and Pharoah from the other, the wall of water to the right and to the left through the Red Sea cascaded down and buried the powerful Egyptian army.  That night, the Israelis found new voices and new songs in praise of God.  Horse and rider he threw into the sea, they chorused.

By 2011, Nigeria had endured over a decade of the most decadent “governance” known to a modern state.  The opportunity to escape was there, on the bank of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army advancing in the form of an uncertain future on the platform of business as usual.

But where was Moses?  Who was Moses on the presidential slate that was capable of feats of incredible strength?  I argued it was General Buhari.   Moses was no angel, but he had the staff in his right hand.  Buhari had the credential and strength of incorruptibility; he could lift his hand against our true foe.

But there may have been no fuel to power the generators in that examination hall, because on the examination sheet, many people do not appear to have seen the question about Moses at all.

Instead, they returned, saying, “I voted for Goodluck Jonathan, not the People’s Democratic Party.”

In other words, they thought it was possible to separate Pharoah from his army; that the consequence was prettier than the cause.  They did not understand the question; better still, they pretended they did not understand the question.

One year later, ours is a country in free-fall.  We all know about the violence that is engulfing the country.  Jonathan lacks the foggiest clue as to how to solve the problem, lurching from one errant policy pronouncement to another; and from one contradictory speech to another.

This lack of capacity is deeply-rooted in his failure to grasp both the concept of leadership and the issues of the moment.  Jonathan’s understanding of leadership is power; he does not see the responsibility component.

Power, not responsibility, saw him budget for three additional jets as soon as he came into office.  Power, not responsibility is why he has been quick to load up the jets at every opportunity.

Power, not responsibility, is what makes a preachy president refuse to declare his assets as demanded by both law and political climate.

Mr. Jonathan has plenty to say, but he does not take action; he speaks about taking action.  He does not implement reports; he files reports.  He does not act as if he has a term of office in his hands; he is thinking about a second term.  He talks about “transformation,” but how can you transform when you have not demonstrated you are superior to what you want to transform?

In January, Mr. Jonathan said “Happy New Year” to his compatriots by announcing the withdrawal of oil “subsidies.”   It has become clear now that on that subject, few government officials were being honest or even knew what they were talking about.  What has transpired since then, especially through the report of the Farouk Lawan-led Ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives, is confirmation that corruption has become a vast and entrenched power within the government.  Corruption may be to Nigeria what cocaine is to Colombia or Peru.

In Mr. Jonathan’s hands, in just one year, we have stopped metering corruption in the millions.  More and more quotations and declarations are in the billions and the trillions.  The cats are growing into lions, and catfish into sharks.

And yet we must keep in mind that the mandate of the committee was only “To Verify and Determine the Actual Subsidy Requirements and Monitor The Implementation of the Subsidy Regime in Nigeria,” over two years (2009-2011) and in one area of the industry.  That is, the committee looked only at a puddle, not the river beyond, which includes the eight years that Obasanjo ran Petroleum Resources because he was the only Nigerian good enough to manage the Ministry.  Beyond that little river is the ocean, which includes and explains why our country is the equivalent of a giant that has been amputated at the knees.

Is Jonathan the answer?  His record argued differently.  He has now squandered another year demonstrating that those of us who said he was wrong were right.  He is so out of his depth that when he says he wants to transform the country, he reminds us transformation is not always positive.

When you think about it, we may well find that Jonathan was the best presidential candidate in 2011 after all…for the task of running Nigeria aground, if the hope is that something noble will rise from the ruins.  In that regard, I can write no better than Dr. Reuben Abati did, in “Hurry Up, Jonathan,” on May 14, 2010:

“…[Jonathan] has fallen so early into the error of doing business as usual,” Abati, now Jonathan’s spokesman, lamented.  “He is the ultimate pacifier.  He seems determined to run a government of the Godfathers.  Every man who imagines himself to be a custodian of the Nigerian legacy, even only a portion of it, seems to have a share of his government…But can President Jonathan just please, hurry up and focus on the important issues of national interest, the same issues that he himself has identified to start with?”

·sonala.olumhense@gmail.com

Image
By Prince Charles Dickson

“Your friend falls, you laugh, your phone falls, and you panic! Efosa Maxwell Aimiuwu

For a lot of us, there is little we can do when people so far away in Abuja, or so high up the leadership chain are looting the public treasury dry, and from time to time, the likes of the National Assembly would treat us to some mind boggling revelations through their ‘dog cannot eat dog’ probes.  The phone of the friend which attracts more sympathy…

I conducted a small random research, and it was quite revealing, out of every ten persons I talked to, only three knew the name of their local government chairmen, of that ten, only one even knew the name or who their ward councilor was. Six out of the ten did not even know the name of their ward. Five did not know where their local government secretariat, another five did not even reside in their home local government area.

We are so bothered about Jonathan, Sambo, and the Ministers. Legislooters and lators, governors, commissioners but we know little of the corruption and maladministration and in some cases a total absence of administration in our local governments.

The question here is, what does a local government chairman do, why are they there, in whose interest was he elected, selected or just a caretaker, how about ward councilors?

Today, a man with no shoes, who failed with governing a state, is rewarded with higher task.  A cursory look at our system tells you that really the failure of governance is from bottom-up most times, it is not about what happens in Abuja, city centers or state capitals, how about our local governments, your local governments, and my local government.

“Do you know that pension woman that ate with so-so-so million per day”, we rant. But how about the local government chairman that eats with several thousand per second, the national assembly members do nothing, how about your ward councilor that converts drugs for the local dispensary for sale at his wife’s chemist shop?

We are concerned about a far away focus-less, large bureaucratic and bogus Federal Government, when we could channel our energy to getting good and better governance at the local level. Today most local governments are centers for knitting, or reading newspapers when available, after which salaries are paid out on the 30th day if the money has not been ‘wacked’ by someone up.

Our constitution reads in its introduction, We the people of the federal republic of Nigeria: Having firmly and solemnly resolved: To live in unity and harmony as one indivisible–We want to live in unity in far away Abuja, but lack harmony in our local communities, we have not firmly resolved at getting it right at the closest level of governance to us.

So naturally…the National Assembly which should make provision for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils in the federation; and (b) the House of Assembly of States which should make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils in the States, simply steal the money, cause nobody will ask, no one cares…

The constitutional provisions for which the local governments are supposed to be responsible for are just mere paper assumptions…collection of rates, radio and television licenses, establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds and homes for the destitute or infirm, licensing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheel barrows and carts. Establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughter houses, slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences…in 2012 these are issues that sound mundane but have they been effectively done?

How many local governments really have been involved in the construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lightning, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities…naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses. Refuse disposal, Assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as prescribed…

How many Councilors know anything about the control and regulation of–out-door advertising …, movement and keeping of pets of all description, shops and kiosks, restaurants, bakeries and other places for sale of food to public, laundries, licensing, regulation and control of the sale of liquor, as provided by the constitution, do these local politicians know their primary duties, or as their senior counterparts are just collecting bogus salaries and allowances for doing nothing.

The provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education, development of agriculture and natural resources, other than exploitation, provision and maintenance of health services are all expectations of citizenry at the local government level too, but how possible is it, when with the exception of a handful, less than 15% of the 774 local governments can boast of independence of any form.

Paucity of funds, projects are at the discretion of the state CEOs. They only build culverts, and commission boreholes, pay salaries, loot the rest. In many a state, these local governments are littered with lackeys of the governors or left as consolation prizes for party men.

Like the dysfunctional Governors’ Forum, we have an ALGON, which does nothing, all noise, and no substance, safe to conclude that at the local level, it is a breeding ground for local thieves, the nursery school for looting public treasury.

If only the local government system can be made to work, although really nothing works, except corruption. If only we could hold the leadership at the level liable, if at local level, councilors go to jail for stealing, if chairmen were impeached for impeachable offences rather than removed at the whims and turns of a power drunk governor.

Through the local government system, we can institute a process of local politics that beget good governance, focusing on the goal and not the post.  Yesterday’s food find so delighted the hare; the hare went to the spot of yesterday’s feeding and never returned. Persistence in risky ventures leads to disaster. The thieves are everywhere… At the local level what we cannot continue like these–time will tell.

Image
By Pius Adesanmi
 If a report in the April 15, 2012 edition of The Nation is anything to go by, Senate President, David Mark, visited the National Hospital, Abuja, for dental and eye care before travelling to Israel for a bigger medical problem one month later. If you are a regular reader of my columns, then you understand that I have reached a point in my assessment of characters in Nigeria’s rulership to conclude that we deal fundamentally with only two unchanging modes of behaviour: minor idiocies and major idiocies. Because Nigerians mostly have to deal with major idiocies on the part of their rulers and public officials, I have learnt to thank God for little mercies whenever a member of the rulership manages to uncharacteristically come up with minor idiocies.

In the spirit of this logic, I must begin the present treatise by thanking God that Senator David Mark at least considered doing his routine dental and eye care at the National Hospital in Abuja before jetting out to Israel at our expense for a more comprehensive medical care. He even tried, as we say in Nigeria. Were he to be in the characteristic mode of the major idiocies of his ilk in the rulership, he would have done dental care in London and eye care in Johannesburg before heading out to Tel Aviv for the last phase of his medical safari. Perhaps we should take London out of the equation because the fear of the Queen’s territory is now the beginning of wisdom for the criminals in Abuja. We still don’t know why David Mark behaved so uncharacteristically by doing his dental and eye care in Abuja but we thank God, sha, that he considered that option.

Because the brainless rulers of Nigeria underdevelop the country by stealing every penny meant for infrastructural development only to run abroad to enjoy infrastructure developed by more intelligent politicians for the benefit of their own people, I will not dwell today on the tragedy of David Mark’s trip to Israel. What deserves attention here is an aspect of these medical safaris by our public officials that we hardly ever discuss. That aspect is precisely where they add insult to injury. The said aspect is a good measure of the contempt and condescension with which the rulers of Nigeria treat the Nigerian people. They do not just steal from us, they are rude to us. However, the fault is not David Mark’s. I blame the Nigerian people for always accepting and putting up with the behaviour of their rulers.

Alabukun ni fun eni ti o fi obo lo eyan, egbe si ni fun eni ti o gba. Blessed are those who insult you and treat you with contempt, woe unto those who accept to be insulted and treated with contempt. This Yoruba popular-cultural adaptation of the beatitudes comes to mind when you think of how David Mark and his team treated Nigerians as far as the management of information about his trip to Israel is concerned. All we got was a rude press release by a staff informing Nigerians that the Senate President was heading out to Israel. Few newspapers published the release. In some of those publications, it barely covered a paragraph. No details. Nothing.

David Mark is the head of one of the three arms of our democratic process. In Nigeria’s political parlance, he is the country’s “Number 3 man.”  In climes where the political class knows the meaning of respect for the citizenry, the third highest-ranking member of the rulership does not enjoy the privilege of suffering from “undisclosed medical ailments”. In fact, no public official of consequence gets to shroud his or her medical condition in secrecy. The people you serve have the right to know that you are able to serve them to be best of your ability at all times. Only last month, Dick Cheney, former US Vice President, had a heart transplant and the entire episode was treated as something the American people had the right to know. Cheney is no longer in office. How much more a serving number 3 man? The Nigerian people have the right to know what ails their Senate President. You don’t get to jet out to Israel for “undisclosed medical reasons” especially if we, the people, are picking up the bill.

The culpability of the Nigerian media is palpable. If you google their coverage of David Mark’s medical safari, you will see all the major local newspapers falling over themselves to announce that the Senate President had gone to Israel for medical treatment. You will see nonsensical reports about how the usual suspects in Abuja are united in solidarity with Mark. You will hear that President Jonathan and other folks in the presidency have sent goodwill messages to Tel Aviv. You will hear that ministers are falling over themselves to send goodwill messages. You will hear that members of the National Assembly are wearing sackcloth and pouring ash over their own corrupt heads in solidarity with their boss in Tel Aviv.

What you won’t get from any of these newspapers is a sense of civic responsibility which makes them hold these clowning politicians accountable to the Nigerian people. Where is that reporter who asked the pertinent questions about the nature of the man’s illness? Where is that newspaper which wrote an editorial to make the point that David Mark does not have the right to travel to Israel and leave the Nigerian people in the dark with regard to the specific nature of his ailment? No, not one.

David Mark’s return from Israel is what Fela would call the second base of the rudeness of these politicians to the Nigerian people. The Tribune’s report of Mark’s return is worth quoting in full: “Senate President, David Mark, returned to Abuja on Wednesday, after a two-week medical trip abroad. Mark, who returned to Abuja from Tel Aviv, Israel, where he underwent a medical treatment, was received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, by his relations and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal; Ministers of Interior, Abba Moro; Water Resources, Serah Ochekpe and Minister of State, Trade and Investment, Dr Samuel Ortom. Others, according to the statement, included Senators Smart Adeyemi, Ahmed Lawan, Suleiman Adoke, Abatemi Usman, Joshua Dariye, Tunde Ogbeha, as well as members of House of Representatives, including Samson Okwu, Salem Hassan, Ezekiel Adaji and  Adamu Entonu, with the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram, among others.”

Well, well, well, I am surprised that President Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo did not abandon their own duty posts to go and be part of this triumphal entry. We are reaching a point where it is not even funny anymore to describe Nigeria as a joke. A man returns from a routine medical treatment and the leadership of NASS, members of NASS, and Ministers all abandon the work of the Nigerian people to be part of an airport jamboree. If I were President Jonathan, I would sanction the three ministers who idled their way to the airport for dereliction of duty. Why should three members of the Executive go to the airport to receive a member of another arm of government? Who are these people? How do you run a country like this? I am particularly disappointed in Smart Adeyemi, the fellow who represents my constituency in the Senate, for being part of this show shame.

It wouldn’t be David Mark if there was no element of conceit and self-delusion to this whole drama. Here is Mr. Mark in his own words during a speech he delivered to the caterwaulers who went to receive him at the airport: “First of all, let me just thank Nigerians and thank God that I am back and I am as fit as a fiddle. I got so many phone calls whilst I was there. The Senate consistently remembered me in its prayers as well as the House of Representatives, the President and his wife. When I couldn’t answer calls, text messages came in from all Nigerians and I am simply moved by the show of love that Nigerians have demonstrated.”

Mr. Mark is back and fit as a fiddle. Good for him. But what is this bit about thanking Nigerians because “text messages came in from all Nigerians”?  Beyond his family and the circle of looters in Abuja and, specifically, the National Assembly, which Nigerians missed David Mark? Which Nigerians sent him text messages? Show of love by Nigerians to David Mark? Maybe past, current, and future contract seekers sent him messages and showed him love? Why do these loathed characters in the rulership love to deceive themselves so? Is it, perhaps, their aides and other sycophants around them who don’t let them have a fair assessment of what Nigerians really think of them? Is it possible that David Mark believes the nonsense he said about Nigerians showing him love? Shior.

Alabukun ni fun eni ti o fi obo lo eyan, egbe si ni fun eni ti o gba. Blessed are those who insult you and treat you with contempt, woe unto those who accept to be insulted and treated with contempt. David Mark is dishing it out to us. The media, as usual, is aiding and abetting the insults. How do you, Nigerian, see yourself in the Yoruba beatitude above and what do you intend to do about it?

Benue’s Opaque Budget

Posted: April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Image
By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
We continue our analysis of the budgets of the state governments with the North-Central State of Benue. Bordered by Nasarawa state to the north, Taraba state to the East, Ebonyi and Cross River states to the south, and Kogi state to the west, Benue state was created in February 1976, when Benue-Plateau State was separated into Benue and Plateau states by the Murtala-Obasanjo administration.

Benue state is acclaimed to be the nation’s food basket because of its rich and diverse agricultural endowments which include yam, rice, beans, cassava, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum, millet and coco yam.

The state produces over 70% of Nigeria’s Soya-beans and is home to one of the longest river systems in the country – River Benue, which has the potential for viable fishing and tourism industries complete with festivals similar to the one in Argungu. The river has the potential to generate electricity, to support dry season farming through irrigation and improved transportation through inland waterways. There are also proven reserves of solid minerals like Limestone, Gypsum, Anhydride, Kaolin, Salt, Lead and Zinc, Clay, Coal, Calcite, Gemstones and Magnetite. The Benue Basin has proven quantities of natural gas and there is the likelihood of crude oil as well. The state has many tourism assets like Ushongo Hills, Ikwe Holiday Resort, Enemabia Warm Springs, Dajo Pottery,mTiv Anger Weavers and many traditional festivals. The traditional music and dances of the state attract thousands of Nigerians and foreigners, with potentials for significant development.

With a land mass of 34,059 sq km, Benue State had a population of 4,223,641 in 2006 – now estimated at nearly five million – a little above the population of Congo and more than twice the population of Botswana. Abdullahi Shelleng was the first military governor of the state (March-1976-July 1978). Aper Aku was the first democratically elected governor under the National Party of Nigeria and served from October 1979 to December 1983. More recent governors are George Akume (May 1999- May 2007) and Gabriel Suswan. Suswan holds  an LL.B from the university of Lagos, a masters degrees in Law from the University of Jos, and in public administration from the University of Abuja. He was a two-time member of the House of Representatives, and began his first term as governor in May 2007.

According to the NBS poverty profile 2012 based on data up to 2010, of the population of the North Central zone, 61.9% is relatively poor, 57.4% is absolutely poor, 38.6% is food poor – an irony indeed for a zone with such generous agricultural endowments. Benue’s poverty incidence is high at 36%, which means that more than one out of every three persons is poor: as opposed to one in seven for Lagos, and more than half – 58% in Yobe state. Benue’s unemployed population is a whopping 25.4 % or more than one in every four working age person is unemployed, as opposed to neighboring Plateau’s 14% and FCT’s 13%, and above the national average of 21.1%. Benue States has one of the highest incidences of HIV infections in the country, accounting for about one out of every eight infections nationally.

So what should Benue State be doing in the face of these endowments and challenges?

Education is one of the key indices to measure state government effectiveness. It should be investing a large percentage of its budget on improving public education. The government must deliver affordable and quality healthcare. It should also invest in key infrastructure to attract investors to its agricultural, fishing, tourism and mining sectors. It should address the needs of its farmers for title to land, rural roads, storage facilities and Argo-processing capacity. Are the authorities doing that?

We were unable to obtain the detailed budget of Benue State anywhere. Even members of state assembly contacted were reluctant to provide more than sectoral summaries. Gabriel Suswan had on the 22nd December 2011 presented a budget of N105.5 billion to the state house of assembly for the 2012 fiscal year. The budget would be financed with N59.9 billion from FAAC, N15.2 billion as IGR and N30.3 billion from other sources – meaning loans and grants-in-aid. Typically Benue received about N40 billion every year from FAAC, so the amount expected this year is a bit optimistic. However, after review by the house of assembly, the budget figure was scaled up by N7 billion, bringing the total figure to N112 billion. In terms of federal allocations between 1999 and 2008, of the total N3.7 trillion allocation that has been distributed amongst the 19 Northern states, Benue received N203.4 billion, making it the 6th largest beneficiary.

Of the total budget sum, N58 billion amounting to 52% is earmarked for recurrent expenditure, and N54 billion, about 48% is set aside for capital expenditure. This means that this rural state is spending much more on running the government than securing the future of its citizens. It should scale capital investment to closer to 70%, and reduce recurrent spending accordingly.

The sectoral breakdown of the budget shows the following structure; N34,406,400,000 (30.72%) for the Works and Transport, N14,336,000,000 (12.8 %) for the Finance ministry pay of loans and set up effective revenue generation mechanisms; 4.82% or N5,376,000,000 for Agriculture, Water Resources got 9.1% or N10,192,000,000. The Rural Development ministry was allocated N11,670,400,000 or 10.42%, and the Health allocated N4,592,000,000 or 4.01%. Judging from the distribution if the budget, these figures alone, one is inclined to question the spending priorities of the Suswan administration.

The largest allocation of N34,406,400,000 or 30.72% of the budget is set aside for the works and transport. In addition, the state house of assembly approved a Fixed Rate Development Bond Issue 2011/2016 of N13 billion for the state. Listed in March 2011, the five-year, 14% coupon rate bond proceeds are for the completion of roads and other projects like water supply in Markurdi, Otobi and Katsina-Ala. Questions remain though – how much of the N34.4 billion is from the proceeds of the N13 billion bond that will be need to be paid back over a five year period? How much of the N13 billion bond was spent so far, and what was it spent on? Venue citizens probably know these answers.

It is indeed a paradox that while Benue state is endowed with one of Nigeria’s biggest rivers with very good water traffic, the citizens live in perpetual water shortage. Regarding River Benue, one would wonder why the state isn’t exploring its hydro tourism/hydro electric potentials; starting up cruises or exploiting its reputation as a major Nigerian river towards developing water transport or building a whole sporting industry, water games and all. Looking at the figure of N10,192,000,000 (9.1%) allocated to Water Resources, the first question that should come to mind is, how much of the N13 billion bond was specifically spent on water projects?. How much of these funds are directed into the areas listed?

As a state with abundant agricultural potentials – land that is very fertile and about 80% of the state’s population is involved directly or indirectly in sustenance farming, wholistic ficus on agricultural production is the key to the state’s future. Sadly, Benue has a reputation for wasteful agriculture as the state lacks basic storage infrastructure. Agriculture is not yet mechanized beyond sustenance such that it will amount significantly upon the states IGR. A careful state endowment and value chain study, with investments in key areas will enable Benue feed most of Nigeria’s population. That is one area for the attention of the authorities

On the bright side, doing business in Benue is relatively easy. Amongst the 36 states and the FCT, Benue was ranked 10 in the ease of doing business, with 8 procedures that will span a minimum of 36 days, 6 places behind its Plateau counterpart. Plateau State’s doing business ranking is number 4, with 8 procedures over a 31 day period. This relatively easy business climate is doing well for Benue, considering that in 2010 the states combined IGR was N6.8 billion, in 2011 it increased to N11 billion, and in 2012, there is an IGR projection of N15.2 billion.

The state deserves some credit on its attractiveness to investors, in 2010, the Benue Cement Company merged into the Dangote group, thereby increasing its capacity in cement production, in 2011, the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (TRANSCORP) subsidiary, Terago Limited, leased, renovated and recommissioned the Benue Pioneer Fruit Juice Concentrates Company for 10 years at the cost of N1 billion. Also in 2011, an MoU for the revitalization and management of the near moribund Taraku Oil Mills was signed. Interestingly all these industries were established during the life of the earlier administration of Governor Aper Aku.

Educationally, Benue is a disadvantaged state. In the 2008 academic year, 41,410 Benue students sat for WAEC, and only 1,879 or 4.5% scored 5 credits including Maths and English, the same year, only 389 students from Benue State were admitted to Nigerian Universities, compared with 3,569 and 4,030 for Edo and Enugu states – the leading performers.  This trend should be of concern, especially in a times such as this, when a core focus of government should be to reduce its unemployed population so they do not constitute a threat to society.

Another worrisome aspect of the budget is the allocation to health: an allocation of 4% or N4.5 billion of the entire budget sum when health should be a priority sector for the state. The  special adviser to the Benue state governor on HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases said that there are no fewer than 400,000 persons in the state who are carriers of the disease, out of three million infected Nigerians. Considering this situation, does Benue aim to safeguard the health of its citizens with this level of spending? Maybe, laudable is the fact that the state government renovated all general hospitals in the state, has partnered with Essential Pharma to curb the menace of fake drugs within the state, and is one of the few states to upgrade its Action Committee on Aids to an Aids Control Agency. There is need to do more in both preventive and curative healthcare provisions.

Benue’s recurrent budget is more than three times its IGR. It is therefore incapable of standing on it own and is one of the “parastatal states” that rely on monthly FAAC hand-outs to exist. Interestingly, in spite of this, there is a strong movement for the creation of another state out of Benue for the benefit of the political elite Idoma ethnic group! The government is doing much better on the IGR front than most states in the country, but must scale down the size and cost of its administration. It is investing aggressively in transport infrastructure and that is commendable but more investments are needed in education, healthcare and agriculture. Tourism, mining and hydroelectricity are all areas that Benue can focus to deepen its comparative advantages within the Nigerian nation. Until these are addressed and urgently too, the people of Benue should be looking at voting differently in the next election.

Two Sad Events
This week started with a depressing note for me, and got worse yesterday with the bombing of ThisDay’s offices in Abuja and Kaduna. On Monday, the sensibilities of Nigerians were challenged by a motley crowd of hired thugs protesting AGAINST the excellent report of the Farouk Lawan Committee on Fuel Subsidy. I was depressed. Have we become this bad that people can shamelessly support what is wrong? Do these protesters have parents? Have we lost all our values to illicit money and now ruled completely by corruption?

As I was struggling with these, learning that Boko Haram has targeted the offices of ThisDay worsened my state of mind. How can those that report news be the problem or the target of anyone? How can anyone justify the killing of another? Where is our sense of community? thee attacks must be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians. We call on the authorities to rise up beyond the usual platitudes and speeches and protect the lives and property of our citizens. May the souls of the departed rest in peace. Amen.

 

Nigeria: A Food For Thought

Posted: April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Image
By Kunle Oderemi
One of the books I have had to re-read lately is, Why we Struck, written by one of the three Army Majors that led the first military putsch in the country, Adewale Ademoyega. I am always fascinated by the account of the author on the political intrigues that culminated in the coup that had become a watershed in the history of the country. Most captivating is the analysis of Ademoyega on the then British colonial masters of the country, who according to him, brazenly manipulated the politics of the era and naivety of a section of the political elite to suit their own selfish agenda, even at Nigeria’s post-independence.

It was in the course of going through Ademoyega’s book again that I was privileged to get a copy of another interesting publication entitled, Time To reclaim Nigeria, a compendium of essays written by Chido Onumah, a widely travelled Nigerian activist and journalist. The 280-page publication contains incisive articles on the tragic adventures of the country in recent times in the hands of the political class that appears to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. Therefore, the title of the book was instructive on what the Nigerian people must do without further delay if they hoped to save the country from the current miasma.

Nonetheless, of all the articles I found most appealing in Onumah’s book was the one entitled, The Trouble With Nigeria. It wasn’t that the issues the writer identified as constituting the problems of the nation’s progress were new. Not at all! Most of them are the core challenges that the vast majority of the more than 160 Nigerian population have come to live with and which have almost brought the country to its knees even under the present political dispensation.  In the article, Onumah brought back the sad memories of the ruin that started a long time and has turned into a national plague. He availed his readers with the lone, but familiar voice of a Jamaican-born academic, Dr. Patrick Wilmot, lamenting the steady descent of our country into the alleys of want and penury.  The author extensively quoted Wilmot’s timeless commentary on the country, richly endowed but being strangulated by the yoke of poverty because of the heartless and conscienceless of a minute percentage of the political class.

Going through it, I felt a total sense of anger and despair about the Nigerian state. You wonder if it was this same country that gave to the world such generations of Nigerians like late Director General of World Health Organisation [WHO], Professor Adeoye Lambo; Professor Adebayo Adedeji, a former Minister of Health and late Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti world acclaimed pediatrician, as well as celebrated writers:  Professor Chinua Achebe and Professor Wole Soyinka; the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and many other worthy ambassadors. You would begin to imagine if such personalities could not have been consigned to the history if the affairs of the country had been managed by those Wilmot tried to depict in his article.

Wilmot needs no introduction. He taught Sociology at the Ahmadu Bello University [ABU], Zaria, for about 18 years, during which he consistently exposed the hypocrisy of the Nigerian elite. But the IBB regime could not tolerate his guts and frankness, so in 1988 decided to bundle him out of the country for teaching what he was not being paid to do, that is, to be a zombie in the academic environment, whereas Wilmot’s articles were, in every material fact, infallible and actually meant to add value to serious intellectual discourse in the quest to build a virile, prosperous and stable country.

Though Wilmot is no longer within the precinct of Nigeria, he appears to be fully abreast of developments in our country. His thoughts on it, its people, politics and the dynamics are so contemporaneous than the commentaries of many of us that are permanently resident in Nigeria. After all, The World, to quote an author, Thomas L. Friedman, is flat, and not just a global village. This is what Wilmot has to say about Nigeria very many years ago: “In 20 years, China’s absolute poor sank from 56 per cent of the population to 12 per cent. In 30 years, Nigeria’s poor rose from 20 per cent to over 70 per cent. Today, China is a world power, Nigeria a basket of case.

“In no other country in the world, with the possible exception of George Bush’s America, do leaders show more contempt, less compassion for their poor citizens. If a man who has stolen billions from the nation announces a party to celebrate a successful operation on his ingrown toenail in Europe, every Big Man from the farthest corner of the country rushes forth like rats from their holes in search of cheese.

“An explosion at one of these ‘society’ weddings, naming ceremonies or funerals would decimate the entire ruling class…. Many Nigerian politicians, especially those with military background, possess modern farms, where they raise livestock. They provide nutritious food, clean water, sanitary housing, the latest medicine and the best veterinary services. They have an interest in the welfare of their animals because they want to make profits. If they had the same interest in their citizens, Nigeria would be a far better place and 70 per cent of the population would not be classified as dirt poor.”

According to him, “People were not going into government to transform the Nigerian economy or benefit the ordinary Nigerian. They were in government for one purpose only: to control power and to use that power to steal. They take money outside Nigeria and put it into banks and institutions. This is totally opposed to every other nation in the history of the world. In a normal nation, corrupt, powerful brutal leaders go out and plunder other countries and bring it back into their own countries.”

I need not add anything to Wilmot’s analysis of the Nigerian situation, as it is picturesque of events in the country today. Suffice to say, however, that his commentary is a veritable food for thought for all well-meaning Nigerians at a time that fuel subsidy and pension funds and their likes constitute largesse for the few cabals in the land.

Image

 

By Prince Charles Dickson

The only way to keep the opposition, especially the ones without alternatives, quiet is to perform more than creditably. Top-notch deliveries are like pregnancy — can’t be hidden. Ndubisi Victor O   

The modus operandi for the Boko Haram click has changed; bombings may have reduced considerably depending on who is reeling out the statistics.

In Kano it is police stations, security institutions or the mosque, these days the force tasked with protecting citizens have been trigger happy.  While Gombe has been hotels, churches and the odd mosque. In Yobe, it’s security operatives, Custom, SSS, institutions and churches. Yobe was safe until late last year the onslaught began.  

In Adamawa, it was Igbos and the governor’s account, then police stations and markets too. In Bauchi, barracks, banks, churches, and police station.  In Kaduna it has been barracks, markets, near the mosque and the Easter Sunday blast and a rare bank attack in Saminaka.

In Jos, Plateau, it has been just churches, and new voyages to viewing centers. In Niger state, it has been Suleja all through, Maddala Xmas Bomb and others. The Christ Embassy and some very unimaginable ones like the self-confessed Igbos manufacturing bombs.

Kogi state has entered the fray, with prison breaks, and bomb making centers. But for some shadow boxing, Abuja has been relatively safe after the Police Headquarters and UN building bombs.

Despite all the threats, Sokoto has remained safe but for the Hostage release drama that went sour. Kebbi is clean, Zamfara too, so also Katsina, Jigawa inclusive. Only the initiated can proffer any logical explanation.  

In Taraba, only the capture of Kabiru Sokoto in the state is a mark. Than that, the state is clean. In Borno, BH has done almost a full circle…From churches, Christians, local politicians, and Islamic scholars/clerics, security agents, schools (without pupils though), markets, wedding–name it.  

From local IEDs to bombs, gunmen that raid victims from motorcycles, bombs that missed targets and bomb makers killed by their wares.

There are has been several arrests, including the Senator that fingered or alleged that the Vice President was aware that he had contacts with BH. One spokesman yet to go on trial, while another one is still having conference calls with Journalists.

The security agents have made several arrests and killings. Comparatively in some states they seem to have the upper edge. But fact remains that…it’s a long way.

Political, economic, criminal, militant, religious and government boko harams are the few typologies we have seen so far–Those that want to negotiate but do not trust government. Those blowing up Banks, those killing other faiths and those that have made sure that more Muslims are killed and then those too that have become Christian Boko Haram and government conspirators…

The fact that attacks have continued where there are curfew and  cache of arms and rocket launchers move around these region despite its military state tells you its far from June.  

Demands keep changing, from sharia request, to the president being asked to convert. To revenge for the Jos praying ground killings to requesting that Southerners leave the North and recently BH’s own ultimatum to the President.

It’s interesting to note that in most of the affected areas Boko Haram has greatly changed the way of life. Many believe it is a Northern problem. Yes, for now maybe but how long–till June according to Mr. President.  

Mutual suspicion, mistrust, half-truths and outright lies and purposeful misinformation exists about the face of Boko Haram.

Who are the sponsors of BH, big ones, small and medium ones? Why is it that no top government functionary has been victim…being a den of Haramites.

There is a growing cell structure, international complexity, do we dialogue, on what terms, with which group, is it justified, are they faceless, no, at least not on the experience of these writer. Are they exploiting a weak leadership?  

How many has to die before June, our hate quotient is on the red level. Innocent Nigerians of different faith and creed killed in bestial manner for things they least understand. Not totally justifiable but at the heart of all these is a leadership that has long neglected its responsibility to her people in terms of  social justice, economic empowerment, political stability via electoral process, and ethno-religious tolerance systems.  

Have we looked at Borno the central actor from the underlying perspective of a battle for supremacy along the divide of Islamic schools of thoughts, so much intellectual disagreements and banana academic peels?  The security experts are faced with underage and gullible boys, on another hand very sophisticated schooled and doctrinated young men armed to the teeth. While many do not know even the real BH detest being referred to as Boko Haram, universities have not been attacked and strangely in all states of concentration the elite residential areas have been spared not necessarily more protected.

When a police station is attacked officers of both major faith and pagans are killed. We are almost confronted with a bad diagnosis leading to bad therapy. And it is in these lights that I conclude by saying that I doubt if the president knows half of these… He may be the CEO of Nigeria and get all the security briefings but he doesn’t know much when he says in public there is BH in his government.

He knows very little when he makes the same comments he made at the Force Headquarters, at the UN, at the Catholic Church. It is very “un-leader-like” to further tell us exactly when this would all be over in manner of fact that says talakawas can die till June.  

Before and by June the only way to keep the opposition, especially the ones without alternatives, quiet is to perform more than creditably on this matter of security of the Nigerian life. Top-notch deliveries are like pregnancy — can’t be hidden. So far Jonathan and the leadership of the North, right from the Vice President, the governors and traditional and religious leaders have failed to put a stop to all these unnecessary deadly pursuit of the hungry Cheetah and the Antelope that needs to survive.  

Like the end of one of those SSS commercials that cost Nigerians millions it says we are Nigerians not terrorists…WHAT WE ARE–time will tell.–

kachisgrit—Don’t Give Up

Posted: April 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Image
By Stella Omepa
Dancing is said to be good for the body as it’s a form of exercise but those of us who are not very good at it concentrates on the other benefits of music like exercising our minds with the lyrics.

‘Don’t give up the fight’ is a short sentence that has groomed me mentally over the years and I owe the thanks to Bob Marley’s “Get up, Stand up” that robbed it in.

As a young and inexperienced Nigerian, not giving up the fight meant different things but I particularly thought it was about fighting with vigor to get everything right.

Just recently, I spent hours in the Lagos-Ibadan traffic because of an obvious reason (hundreds of heavy duty vehicles parked thoughtlessly by the roadside). Any right-minded person knows that using the highway as parking spaces is completely unjustifiable.

I was torn between who to blame among the two-the government and the populace, because their stillness is clearly responsible for the chaos.

After battling hard with the thought of a government which fully understands that a functioning rail system, pipelines or parks at strategic places would clear the mess but chose to sit still even when people died regularly as a result of the accidents caused by such careless negligence, my annoyance turned towards the populace.

The supposed government has nothing to lose. With the abundance of private jets in the country, they have little to do with the road and superior services are always provided whenever they needed to use the road so they are always at minimal risks as far as road accidents are concerned. So why would the people who directly suffers the wickedness also sit still?

The picture of a mad public protesting over the act formed almost immediately in my head but I saved myself the anxious desire of having people rise up in mass now that I understand my country.

Like that wasn’t enough torture, and my resolution to stay calm wasn’t a wise decision. Somewhere in Akure (the capital of Ondo state) and Okene (a small town in Kogi state), I was stuck in other traffic jams caused by heavy –duty vehicles breaking down on the way.

About when I was wondering why there was so much disorder and when help would come to the eager travelers, I saw a group of security men with their weapons raised to the sky and clearing those who weren’t on the right lane but before I could offer thanks for the aid, a couple of cars with escort vans sped past me and the so called aid disappeared within minutes.  Only then did it occur to me that they only made way for themselves.

Watching those who should serve Nigerians serve themselves at the detriment of the people is enough reason for anyone to fight for his/her right in the most aggressive way but it doesn’t pay to act without a strategy.

Now I am old enough to understand my country. So much so that I know that peradventure the road users all come out in a peaceful protest against such acts, many would be dead as a result of stray bullets. That is not the kind of death I wish for myself or any Nigerian.
“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. (Edward Abbey)” is an axiom that can best cure the Nigerian ailment.

Nigeria is not a country where we rely on either the government or the masses to fight for change. Even when it works for others, education provides us an opportunity to seek the best alternative in every situation and not the tradition of as it is done. Ours is a country where only individuals can bring about change.

I like where Bob Marley called on himself to get up and stand up for his rights. It was about him first, and then any other person who listened to the song and thought it was a just cause which he/she would also like to stand for.
Your level and type of education empowers you and places you in the position where you can easily defend yourself and your country before any governing body and be the change that you desire.

We have a government that supposedly works day and night to protect lives and properties, a sect called  Boko  Haram that kills hundreds of people at any given opportunity, jobless youths who would do anything to make a living, the aged without social support and whose direct caregivers are either wasting in prison or living from hand to mouth, and an economy that’s on the verge of collapse because of those who takes more than their share and those who doesn’t care what becomes of the economy as they are already used to a collapsed economy.

Whatsoever the case may be, it is Nigerians who are killing, betraying or denying Nigerians. Our problem was once upon a time our colonial masters but our present problem is us.

Come out of the crowd and do something for your country. And it is completely injudicious to seek the social and economic stability of a country that pays you for a duty you are not hundred percent committed to except heading people including those who don’t even understand the cause for which you are fighting or your deepest interests all in the name of mass protests.

I hear of revolution as the only thing that would save Nigeria and I admire the passion with which they say it. I only hope the revolution they mean is the one that involves a dramatic change in our ideas and practice in the most positive way and not anything that would put the life of any Nigerian at risk.

We have lost too many already and are yet to develop any plan that would support those who has been orphaned, handicapped or generally disadvantaged as a result of our failed security, governance and morals.

Fighting for ones right is fine and obligatory but employing a strategy that does more harm than good is like planting a bad seed with the hope of an abundant harvest.

*Stella Omepa is a budding writer, loves Nigeria, “with perseverance and passion for long-term goals for Nigeria and young people…she owns Kachisgrit, for her its about “hardiness,” “resilience,” “ambition,” and “need for achievement.